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Proposal seeks change to plumbing codes


Proposal seeks change to plumbing codes

Washington — The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry (UA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have reached an agreement on a landmark proposal to save energy and water in new buildings. The two organizations jointly submitted a proposal to the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) to require the insulation of hot water piping in new buildings.

Today, many Americans waste millions of gallons of water by letting water run until it’s hot enough for use in showers and sinks. To curtail this waste in new buildings, NRDC and the UA proposed that the 2015 edition of IAPMO ‘s Uniform Plumbing Code require insulation of all hot water piping systems such as those serving lavatories, showers, dishwashers, and kitchen sinks. The Uniform Plumbing Code is the model for local and state plumbing codes now in force in at least 19 states.

“As IAPMO drafts its next set of codes, we recommend insulating hot water piping to reduce the waste of energy and water in hot water systems.  This proposal is indicative of the UA’s commitment in construction, service and maintenance practices required for energy efficient green buildings.  Throughout the construction industry, there are untapped opportunities to make our buildings and our economy more efficient, and we should seize these opportunities to create good jobs for American workers,” said William P. Hite, General President of the United Association.

According to Peter Lehner, Executive Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, “This proposal is a commonsense solution to an everyday problem that we can all warm up to. Most of us waste too much time, energy and money waiting for hot water to come out of our faucets and showers. By combining efficient designs, proven energy-saving materials, and skilled labor, we can build smarter buildings that curb this waste and improve the amenity of new buildings. This proposal will not only save homeowners and renters money on their monthly utility bills but also protects our environment by cutting energy and water use.”

In a typical, 3-bedroom, 2-bath home, an estimated 12 percent of all hot-water use is wasted, according to a 2009 analysis led by Robert Hendron of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Purging at showers, kitchen sinks, and lavatory faucets was responsible for 95 percent of the estimated total of nearly 3,000 gallons of hot water waste annually. NRDC estimates pipe insulation can reduce this waste of water and energy by 15-30 percent. Of course, many new homes are built with more hot water outlets than the NREL model’s base case, and with hot water distribution systems that are far less efficient. For example, some new homes are built with their hot-water heaters located in the garage, far away from showers and faucets. The proposed revision to Uniform Plumbing Code will ensure that hot water pipes supplying these fixtures are fully insulated.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org.

The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada and Australia (UA), affiliated with the national building trades, represents approximately 370,000 plumbers, pipe fitters, sprinkler fitters and service technicians in North America and Australia. The “UA”, as it is commonly known is a multi-craft union whose members are engaged in the fabrication, installation and servicing of piping systems.


  1. Matthew Hermanson
    Matthew Hermanson01-07-2014

    Without getting into the merits of if this proposal is “a good idea” or “not a good idea”, this proposal is in conflict with the purpose of both the UPC and the IMC. The purpose of both the UPC (101.3) and IPC ([A] 101.3) is the health and safety of the parties using the proposed plumbing installation.

    So while energy and resource savings is both a noble and worthwhile goal., neither the UPC nor the IPC is the proper code to address this issue.

    Both ASHREA 90.1 and the International Energy Conservation Code would be the proper codes to address this requirement. And as the current legislative environment would have it, at least one of these have been adopted for new construction in nearly, if not all, states.

  2. Jim

    Just read the piping insulation blurb and it doesn’t make any sense—if the main culprit of wasted water is letting taps/showers run until they get hot, how does insulation help? I can understand it helps with loss of heat/energy while it’s in use, but it doesn’t seem to me to do anything about the water usage problem. In fact, it seems to me, the code change that makes the most sense as far as water waste is to require hot water sources closer to the where the hot water is being used—for example tankless heaters within 10 ft of a shower, dishwasher, etc. Anyone?

  3. Claude Waudoit
    Claude Waudoit01-07-2014

    The most simple and efficient solution is to use a faucet that includes a water recycling function that redirect the water to the water heater inlet as long the water is cold, in a few second, only on demand. This solution is valid for new constructions and retrofit. it could be available within a few months after someone show interest.
    More info on http://www.wesavings.eu

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